Friday, June 24, 2016

Henry Fox Townsend

Swindon solicitor Henry Fox Townsend was feeling as fit as a fiddle when he boarded the 3pm train for Paddington on Thursday December 13, 1894.

The purpose of his London visit was to bid farewell to his brother Charles, a tea planter, who was returning to India the following day.

The brothers had a table booked at the Holborn Restaurant on the Friday but Charles was to report that Henry failed to turn up.

'Upon the arrival of the train at Paddington it was noticed by one of the railway officials that Mr. Townsend was in an insensible condition, apparently suffering from a fit,' reported the Swindon Advertiser. 'He was at once removed and conveyed to St. Mary's Hospital, where he died shortly afterwards without regaining consciousness.

His death at the early age of 34 shocked all who knew him. His friends told how he had recently purchased a property called the Firs in Wroughton where he intended 'settling down and enjoying what appeared to be, in all probability, a long and prosperous career.'

The following week the Advertiser reported on the verdict of the inquest where coroner Dr. Danford Thomas heard how railway porter William Lovesey found Townsend lying on his face on the floor of one of the compartments.

Dr. Poynton told how Townsend was 'unconscious and breathing stertorously' upon arrival at St. Mary's Hospital. "Both pupils had become dilated and the unfortunate gentleman remained insensible till his death, which took place at a quarter past nine the same evening.'

'A post mortem examination showed that the cause of death was compression of the brain, the result of an apoplectic seizure,' continued the report.

The funeral took place the following Tuesday with the coffin covered in wreaths, and carried on a hand bier the short distance from Townsend's offices at 42 Cricklade Street to the parish church.

Chief mourners were the deceased's sister Annie Louise and brothers Southcote and Charles. Others present included Ambrose Goddard and his son Capt. Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard, Henry's partner Edward Tudor Jones and rival solicitors Henry Kinneir and his son Walter.

Among the many wreaths was one with the sad message 'From his mother with tender love and unutterable sorrow.'

Unbelievably Annie Townsend had lost her husband James Copleston Townsend in identical circumstances when returning from London on the evening of March 26, 1885, he was 'noticed to totter and fall' as he alighted from the train.

He was carried to the Refreshment Rooms and then to one of the bedrooms, where he momentarily regained consciousness but died at around 10 pm.

A fallen cross on a pink granite plinth marks the grave of father and son in the churchyard at Christ Church.

photograph courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball see

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